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How to Handle Child Education Decisions After Divorce

by | Oct 15, 2019 | child custody and support, Family Law Attorney, News and Events

It’s common for ex-spouses co-parenting on Long Island to disagree about many aspects of raising their child post-divorce. When it comes to your child’s education, however, the stakes are raised because their long-term future may potentially be impacted. Here’s how you can handle disagreements about your child’s education with your ex-spouse and how to get help from an experienced Long Island divorce lawyer.

Establish Who Has Legal Custody

First and foremost, it’s critical to understand who has legal custody of your child. It may be either you or your ex-spouse, or you may share legal custody. Be aware that legal and physical custody are not the same; if you have sole physical custody, you may still share legal custody.

In cases of joint legal custody, both you and your ex-spouse must agree on your child’s education. If you don’t, this becomes a contested issue that requires resolution either via mediation or litigation. If only one parent has legal custody, they can make decisions about the child’s education even if the other parent disagrees.

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Eliminate Arguments In Front of Your Child

Arguments between ex-spouses in front of their child or children can be detrimental, especially when they’re regarding issues regarding the child, such as visitation arrangements, health care, and education. Make a point to keep discussions about your child with your ex-spouse private. If things become heated while around your child, table the discussion temporarily and pick it back up when you’re in a more conducive environment to work things out. This is a good rule of thumb to use both during the divorce process while things are still very raw and after the divorce has been finalized to keep interactions drama-free.

Be Flexible When Possible

You and your ex-spouse may need to reach a compromise regarding your child’s education, especially if you share legal custody. Whenever possible, be flexible. Make an effort to understand your ex-spouse’s point of view. As an example: perhaps the current school your child goes to is far from your ex-spouse’s new home, making it very difficult to transport the child to and from school during visitation time. Stick to your guns when it matters most (for example, if your child’s safety is at risk at the school closest to your ex-spouse) and give a little when a compromise can still work well for your family.

Special Needs Education Considerations

Special needs children often require a more individualized education plan, which can be challenging for separated parents. Take these needs into account when making decisions about your child’s education. For example, if the school your ex-spouse prefers has a better special needs program than the school that is closest to you, it may be best to compromise unless the better school is very far or has other glaring issues that won’t work for your child. The other guidelines here also apply to special needs children: avoid arguing in their presence and be flexible about education decisions when you can.

If Your Child Is Old Enough, Ask What They Want

If your child is “of age,” New York family courts will often consider their wishes when making determinations about custody, visitation, and other important matters, including education. Contrary to popular belief, children age 13 and over cannot formally make custody decisions on Long Island; a judge still makes the final decision and has veto power if the child’s desires aren’t feasible. However, judges do heavily consider the wishes of older children, so ask your child what their education preferences are. Do they like a particular school because the teachers are more helpful, or because they have established friends? When your child’s wishes align with their best interests, allowing them to choose or even simply weigh-in can help them feel supported and advocated for.

Fighting About Education? Let Our Experienced Long Island Divorce Law Firm Help

If you and your ex-spouse disagree about one or more factors related to your child’s education, it’s important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you better understand your post-divorce legal rights and custody limitations, as well as assist you in petitioning for a modification of your divorce decree. Contact our Long Island law firm now for a complimentary divorce and family law consultation at 631-923-1910.

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